Review Copy provide by CineAsia
Being fully transparent, this might be one of the hardest reviews I have ever written. The film was commissioned by the propaganda department of the Chinese Communist Party. Off that sentence alone it’s clear why I find reviewing this challenging. So, I’m going to review this film simply off its own merits and not focus to much on its historical accuracy and its politics. I am not qualified enough to speak on those aspects so I’m not going to talk about those factors. However, I do endorse that you do your own research into the politics and historical inaccuracies if you so incline. It is up to you as the viewer to decide If you want to support a film like this.
From 3 legendary filmmakers Tsui Hark, Dante Lam and Chen Kaige comes the 2nd highest grossing film of 2021 and the most expensive film ever produced in China. The Battle at Lake Changjin is a war epic about a bloody battle between China and the USA during the Korean war. The film feels like if Michael Bay and Asian melodrama had a baby. The action in this film is utterly mind blowing and is clearly inspired by American films. Which isn’t to shocking as Dante Lam has for a long time been called the Michael Bay of China and the lead Wu Jing has made a name from himself recently by staring in action blockbusters that closely resemble American action films compared to his Hong Kong films of the past. Wolf Warrior 2 has action done by Sam Hargrave of Extraction fame and the song Amazing Grace can be heard during an action scene.
While normally I would be against the Americanisation of foreign action films with The Battle at Lake Changjin it works very effectively to create action scenes that are exhilarating and mind-blowing. The action alone can be described as epic and one scene in particular involving planes doing a flyby is tense and emotionally impactful. The action is always clear and easy to follow but it’s also extremely chaotic in way that only a great filmmaker can achieve. Every action scene worked for me, and I loved every minute of it.
The same cannot be said about the drama. While some scenes are truly effective at conveying the message of overcoming hardship and overcoming the odds. But for every great drama scene there was one that had no impact on me whatsoever. Part of me feels that this is due to its overly long runtime of 2 hours and 56 minutes which you can feel especially in the latter half of the film. All the cast do a very great job though, I especially love Wu Jing in this film who I think does an incredible job and nails every scene he is in. However, what I truly loved about this film is its soundtrack. It’s a truly epic score that kicks in at the right moments and simply boosts the entire sound stage in a way that is truly sensational.
When I finished The Battle at Lake Changjin, I thought to myself when can I watch the sequel. The action set pieces along have me coming back for more and while the film does have its issues, I find that at worst it’s mediocre war film, at its best it’s a true war epic.
Trinity CineAsia presents The Battle at Lake Changjin on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital from 16th May
Written By Robert Drever